In the first part of this theory, we saw trout wariness levels 0 and 1. This second part analyses levels 2 and 3 and a whole set of factors that can condition a trout's behavior to a greater or a lesser degree when the fish is involved in the activity that is the most important for the fisherman, feeding.
The trout's feeling: it feels vulnerable and is aware of the fisherman's presence, which it tolerates as long as his movements are rhythmic, regular and smooth.
Behavior: it feeds with apprehension and lets some flies drift by before taking one.
Probable situation of the trout: There is no protection nearby. There is quite a bit of light.
Reaction to your fly: anything abnormal like light reflected off your leader, micro-drag, etc. will make the fish reject your fly and increase its level of wariness. This trout may have moved up to this degree upon rejecting one of your flies because of drag.
Difficulty: high. You have to get everything right on the first try. You won't get a second chance. So everything depends on the first cast.
A trout may be fully aware of your presence and go on feeding. But it will be taking the naturals irregularly and almost at random, with one eye on its food and the other on everything surrounding it.
The trout's feeling: It's feeding, but very apprehensively and on the defensive.
Behavior: unforeseeable and erratic. Feeds at random.
Probable situation of the trout: It's very visible. No protection nearby. Quite a bit of light.
Reaction to your fly: unlikely that it will look at it. If it sees it, it may die laughing.
Difficulty: Impossible. This trout is not going to take your fly no matter what you do. You'll have to wait until it drops to level two on the wariness scale.
According to the researcher-fly fisherman, Harry Ramsey, it takes a trout barely seven minutes to get used to a fisherman's presence. If he casts and moves carefully and rhythmically, the trout relaxes and forgets about him. If the fisherman stays there a while and his movements are always regular and smooth, the trout will end up accepting him as part of the stream and even take him as a reference point with respect to its feeding station. It may even approach the fisherman to a distance of less than two yards.
A trout may be feeding and still be quite wary. What are the factors (either of the natural instinct or learned behavior types) that con contribute to a higher or lower level of wariness?
Some conditioning factors:
- Light (increases the degree of wariness)
- Transparency of the water (increases)
- Protection from the banks (decreases wariness)
- Protection from the sky (decreases)
- Current (decreases)
- False strike (increases)
- Rejection (increases)
- Awareness of the angler's presence (increases)
- Intensity of the hatch (decreases)
- Size of the trout (increases)
After level three, you would have four, when the trout runs for cover in its shelter and stops feeding.
Some possible conclusions
- A trout may be feeding on the surface, apparently relaxed and carefree, but is actually be feeling a bit tense, apprehensive and vulnerable.
- No trout is unhookable. All trout become so wary at some time or other that they just can't be deceived (you say you've never come across one?)
- Lengthening your leader and/or reducing its diameter only make sense for trout at level one or two.
- Changing the fly for a more exact imitation will only serve a purpose for trout at level two.
- Your movements must be extremely unhurried and careful for level-two trout.
- With level-three trout: Be still and wait.
- After a rejection, the trout is very likely to move up the wariness scale a level.
- After a false strike, it will very likely move up two levels. (If it was at level two and the false strike scared it, it'll be put down. If it was at level zero, however, it's still hookable.)
- A trout can jump from level one to three or four in just an instant.
- It'll only lower its wariness one level at a time, though.
It's very likely that this theory does no more than put a lot of fishermen's unspoken impressions and experiences into words. Nevertheless, I believe that the more we rationalize complex fishing situations such as those studied here, the better equipped we'll be to know what's happening and how to proceed, often acknowledging that it's useless to keep insisting. Something's better than nothing.